What if you only have one day to tour Venice? Which sights should you give priority to? We give you a full day’s itinerary for a perfect day in Venice. We give you some other ideas at the end of the post if you have more time in Venice.
Venice has so many sights worth visiting there is no end to the choices. If you only have one day and you are cramming in as much as possible and it is summer, take water, hat and sunscreen. Be aware Venice is also more expensive than other parts of Italy.
The trip begins and ends at the Venezia San Lucia Train Station. This is where most visitors staying outside of Venice (which is cheaper) arrive and depart Venice. Padua or Treviso are close options for accommodation and access via train.
On arrival into Venice, buy a day pass for the vaporetto . You will see the ticket office on your left as you exit the station. They are expensive but if you intend to make 3 trips or more by vaporetto (canal ferry) you will save money over the course of the day. If you follow this itinerary, you will make more than 3 trips! Make sure you pick up a transport map from the same ticket office. You can also obtain a map of Venice at the ticket office it will come in handy as Venice is a bit of a maze! So with transport sorted, we are off for the perfect day in Venice.
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A Perfect Day in Venice
8.00 Rialto Market
Catch a vaporetto to the famous Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto). Enjoy the early morning light and scenery as you go. It is a good opportunity to take some early photographs before there are too many people on the vaporetto (they get very crowded). Look out for the market on your right about 200 meters before the Rialto. That’s our destination.
From the Rialto Vaporetto Station, cross the bridge and wander down to the Rialto Market (Mercato). Spend 10 or 15 minutes admiring the fresh seafood and great Italian fruit and vegetables. Here is a recipe for crumbed swordfish which we were inspired to make after visiting this market.
Walk back to the Rialto Vaporetto Station and catch the vaporetto to St Mark’s. Or, instead, wander through the alley ways of Venice between the Rialto and St Mark’s (this is not a long walk). Wandering through Venice is a sublime pleasure. Stop off for a quick coffee and brioche while standing at the “bar” observing the happy (if not loud), Italian culture. Hint: the coffee is usually 33% cheaper if you stand at the bar than if you sit down at a table!
9.30 The Doge’s Palace
Resist the urge to wander around St Mark’s Square or to visit St Mark’s itself. It is however a good time to snap a few pictures while the square is less busy. We will be back there later in the day. Next stop is the Doge’s Palace. We want to arrive there before the longer queues start later in the day, (and the building heats up). The museum opens at 8.30am in summer.
The palace was used for 3 different functions. It was the residence for the Doge, the seat of government of all-powerful Venice and the law courts (with connected prison) which meted out justice on behalf of all. Here is some information from Wikipedia about the history of The Doge’s Palace and what you can expect to see inside.
It is well worth a visit to the palace. It contains exquisite artwork, some of it on a scale defying imagination! You will learn much about the history and power of Venice. It is also the only way to access the Bridge of Sighs to the connecting prison.
You can buy your tickets online from the official website (you get express entry) before you visit or pay at the time of your visit. We paid at the time and because we arrived early there was no queue at all. We noticed long queues in the afternoon.
If you can only get there in the afternoon, you can take a guided tour booking a time for entry or enter after hours on this tour. You can also purchase a skip the line ticket for the Doge’s Palace.
11.00 Murano Glass Factory
No trip to Venice would be complete without visiting Murano to marvel at the magnificent glass produced and sold there. From St Mark’s, catch a vaporetto to Colonia Station on the island of Murano.
When you alight from the vaporetto, there will be men encouraging you to visit their glass factory for free. We visited along with a bunch of other people from the same vaporetto and it was well worth it. For years and years, we have admired Murano’s beautiful glassware! It is fascinating to watch the men hard at work blowing glass. What a hot job that is in summer!
After the demonstration you can have a look around the showroom. There was no hard sell and we enjoyed looking at the magnificent glassware (but didn’t buy anything)!
12.30 Lunch at Acquastanca, Murano
After the glass blowing, wander back past the vaporetto station and walk up Fondamenta dei Vettrai, next to the canal. Admire all of the glass shops as you go. Cross the bridge called Apa Gioielli di Apa Antonio and just on the other side you will find a restaurant called Acquastanca.
This is a seafood restaurant. At Acquastanca, the menu is different from the neighboring restaurants, it was very cool inside the restaurant, the service is good and we had a fabulous seafood meal there. It was not in the cheap eats category, but nothing is cheap in Venice!
We had a most pleasant lunch there so we are happy to recommend the restaurant. After all you can’t have a perfect day in Venice without some great food!
2.00 St Mark’s Basilica
Catch a vaporetto back to St Mark’s Square. On arrival back at St Mark’s Square, join the queue to tour through the truly, magnificent Basilica di San Marco, whose eastern-looking architecture is so different to anything else you will see in Italy. It is the quintessential highlight of Venice and should not be missed.
It may take 30 to 45 minutes before you gain access to St Mark’s. Just relax, people-watch and observe the adjoining Companile di San Marco and the Piazza San Marco.
Once inside the Basilica enjoy its magnificent, golden interior. It leaves you rather awe-struck! It really brings home the historical power of both Venice and the Church. Once inside, count on about 45 minutes to tour the Basilica.
You can avoid the queues by booking online. Be aware that if you do book online (maximum 8 people) you will need to be at the Basilica at your assigned time.
4.00 Florian Café, St Mark’s Square
Need a break after the awe-inspiring St Mark’s? For the ultimate indulgence, why not have a coffee or maybe a wine at the Florian Café, in St Mark’s Piazza?
This place has been in the same location for almost 300 years. Just think about that for a moment.
You can either sit inside the café amongst the luxurious surroundings in the air conditioning or sit in the outside seating on the piazza. Here you can enjoy the small band playing for its customers as well as watch life go by on St Mark’s Piazza, possibly the world’s most expensive rentals on the world’s most famous square.
It is a terrific experience, but be aware prices at the café may well result in your most expensive coffee ever! But it will be a lasting memory of your perfect day in Venice!
5.00 Peggy Guggenheim Museum
Catch the vaporetto or walk from St Mark’s to the Accademia Station on the other side of The Grand Canal and walk to the Peggy Guggenheim. It closes at 6pm so be there by 5pm which will allow enough time to see all of the pieces at a leisurely pace. It is not open on Tuesdays.
I am not big on modern art but I found this museum to be fabulous. It is the previous Venice residence of Peggy Guggenheim. It is not a big museum, so not too much effort for your tiring feet! It contains artworks from many famous artists (including Picasso). At the time of our visit there was an exhibition running on Charles Pollock, brother of Jackson Pollack, both benefactors of Peggy Guggenheim. Also check out the gift shop- it has some very different items if you are looking for a souvenir or a gift to take home.
6.00 Aperitivo Time
You must be tiring at this stage. Do what the Italians do and enjoy an aperitivo or two before dinner. They are meant to stimulate your appetite. Try a prosecco or maybe a Campari and soda for something different. Add a little antipasto to quell your appetite as dinner is still ahead of us.
7.30 Grand Canal
Venice is slowing down on the Grand Canal but it is a great time for photographs with the late afternoon light. Take a load off your feet and catch the vaporetto from Accademia to San Marcuolo (Casino) station.
8.00 Jewish Ghetto Wander and Dinner
This is our last stop! After alighting from the vaporetto have a wander around the Jewish Ghetto. It is not as busy as the area around St Mark’s. It is an area full of history.
The word ghetto originated in Venice when Jewish people were forced to live in this area. It was also the setting for Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”. Here is some further information about the Jewish ghetto in Venice.
There are lots of dining options here. Choose one and review your perfect day in Venice.
Unfortunately, that is the end of the tour. You can either catch a vaporetto back to Venezia San Lucia or walk. It will take you about 10 minutes to walk.
Staying Longer in Venice?
One Perfect Day in Venice not long enough? There are plenty of other great sights in Venice we haven’t covered here:
- How about a gondola ride? Mornings might be the best time to take your ride, as it is less busy. A couple of things to keep in mind before you board the gondola:
- There are a number of stations where you can board the Gondola around Venice and some are quieter than others. At peak times, it becomes very crowded, to the point of “traffic jams” on the canals.
- Think about what you would like as scenery on your ride, it might influence where you board.
- Rates are set, and it is cheaper before 8 p.m.
- How about a visit to the Fenice Theater? (Teatro La Fenice). Click on the link to check out how magnificent the theatre is. We attended an opera here but you can also just do a tour of the theater.
- There are a lot of other musical and theatrical events on in Venice. As you walk around notice what is on, purchase tickets in advance.
- When you look out over the water from the edge of St Mark’s Square you notice the beautiful, domed church of Santa Maria della Salute. It is a magnificent sight. Why not visit it? It is not far from the Guggenheim and it is much quieter on that side of The Grand Canal. You can see it in the picture of the Grand Canal.
- Wander around Venice with no destination in mind. Venice is just made for this. You will come across magnificent churches, large and small piazzas everywhere just oozing with character, beautiful old buildings and the ever-present canals.
And the shopping in Venice is fabulous. No giant, characterless malls here. Start at the Rialto and head towards St Mark’s and see what you find! Perhaps a souvenir of your perfect day in Venice.
Maybe look for a mask or some Murano glassware. Finish off by admiring the very expensive looking shops around Piazza San Marco.
More About Italy
If you enjoyed our perfect day in Venice, there is a lot of other content on Compass & Fork about the food, wine, culture and travel tips for Italy.
If you want to explore beyond Venice you might enjoy:
The Emilia Romagna Region in Northern Italy: Home to Great Food (Bologna and Surrounds)
And to help you plan your trip to Italy:
To further explore the food and culture of Northern Italy:
We hope you enjoyed A Perfect Day in Venice. Do you have any other suggestions for visiting Venice? Or questions? If so, please leave us a comment below. Did we miss anything that would be on your Perfect Day in Venice?